A Weekly Message from Chris+

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

An excerpt from “A Letter to My Younger Self” by Rick Ankiel:

October 3, 2000.

It’s going to be a Tuesday. The weather will be perfect — almost too perfect for early fall in St. Louis.

Eighty two, with a slight breeze. Blue skies and sunshine.
You’ll be starting Game 1 of the NLDS at Busch Stadium against the Atlanta

Braves and a future Hall of Famer named Greg Maddux.
I know, right? Unreal.

It will be your coming out party on the national stage, kid. The entire baseball world will tune in to see the 21-year-old rookie fireballer who has been striking out more than a batter an inning in the bigs.

And then…

Man….

Listen, there’s no easy way to put this.

It’s gonna be a rough day.

You’re going to be staked to a 6–0 lead in the first inning, and you’ll be cruising along. Then, in the top of the third you’ll throw a cutter to Andruw Jones. It will be off the inside corner a bit, and maybe a little low. It won’t be a terrible pitch, but it’ll get past the catcher for a wild pitch.

It happens. No big thing, really.

Except.…

For some reason, your mind will immediately go to this thought:
Millions and millions of people just saw me throw a wild pitch on national television.

Then you’ll think about your family watching the game, and your friends. You’ll think about your hometown, and how you had wanted to represent for Port St. Lucie. And your teammates. And the manager who trusted you enough to give a rookie the ball in Game 1 of the playoffs.

You’ll think about all the people you’re letting down.

You’ll think all of that stuff … in the span of about three seconds.

And just like that, without even really knowing it, you’ll be shook.

Baseball pitcher Rick Ankiel was to be one of the greatest pitchers of all time. Ankiel broke into Major League Baseball in 1999 as a 19 year old left-handed pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals. He was an ace pitcher. For baseball fans during that time, it is easy to remember. Suddenly during the playoffs, he couldn’t throw strikes. He wasn’t just missing the strike zone by being too careful. He was flinging baseballs over the catcher’s head all the way to the backstop. This was uncommon for him because he had such incredible control over where he placed the ball. In that fateful inning he pitched five wild pitches. 

When describing what he underwent on the field that day and during subsequent outings in which he tried to regain his control he talks about a “monster” that was born inside him.  He says, “I wake up in the middle of the night you know having the nightmare that I couldn't throw a strike I'm soaked in sweat.  It's like this thing won't even leave me alone during my sleep.”

The voice that Rick Ankiel describes as a “monster” ended his pitching career. It was louder than the voices of the fans, his coaches and his friends. Psychologist Ethan Kross describes it as the mind’s “Chatter." The voices in our head that often keep us up in the middle of the night when we replay some event or situation in our life. Perhaps a traumatic event like a car accident that may have been avoided if we had just…… or perhaps something less dramatic like replaying a conversation when we said something embarrassing or hurtful. We all have that kind of chatter going off in our minds sometime or another. It is that negative inner voice that refuses to let go and reminds us at the worse possible times. 

No matter the negative voices in our own mind, the hidden chatter in our heads or the monsters in our own dreams, we have a God and a community that is pulling for us, encouraging us to continue, trying to silence those voices that shake us to our core. “You are my child, with whom I am well pleased,” is the voice of the One who created us that is often still and small, but persistent. Sometimes, though, we might have to find that voice in the community of love around us.

Thankfully for Rick Ankiel he found that in his agent. While his career as a major league pitcher was completely over, and he retired from baseball in 2005, he did something really remarkable in baseball.  Several hours after he retired, Rick’s agent called him and encouraged him to try his hand at being an outfielder and a hitter. For those of you who don’t know, this never happens in baseball. And yet it did.

Ignore the chatter.  Listen to the voice of love.

Be Safe. Be Well. Be at Peace.

Chris+

"God of the present moment, God who in Jesus stills the storm and soothes the frantic heart; bring hope and courage to all who wait or work in uncertainty. Bring hope that you will make them the equal of whatever lies ahead. Bring them courage to endure what cannot be avoided, for your will is health and wholeness; you are God, and we need you."

-A New Zealand Prayer Book
He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa’ (adapted)